Blake seeks to provide the Golden String which can lead us through the labyrinth of our experience or his own poetry.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 8,  (E 37)
"Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth."

Blake's work was creating images. His Imagination was his connection with the Infinite. What he received through his senses from the outer world was processed by his mind as images. He received as data: material objects, events, relationships, individuals. But the reality of each thing he knew to be in his mind. Until his mind, through his imagination, created an image from the data, it was not true.  

Jerusalem, Plate 4, (E 147)

"I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal
Eyes Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God. the Human Imagination"

From the raw data which he gathered with an eclectic appetite he created a multitude of images to feed the minds of his readers with ideas and open their imaginations to the 'Perception of the Infinite'.

British Museum
Study for Blair's The Grave
In my last post Los confronted Urizen in his furnace of the brain. Here Blake takes a different tack: he acknowledges that none can pass through the fires of Los which rage in the bottoms of his cave. We might express this idea in psychological terms as: none can reach the source of imagination by digging directly into the unconscious. Blake provides an alternative route: through descending ' To Bowlahoola & Allamanda & to Entuthon Benython.'  This is to say that by living in our bodies with the structures which comprise our organs we can make our way through the trackless forests into Eternity.   


Milton, Plate 37 [41], (E 138)
"but the Fires of Los, rage
In the remotest bottoms of the Caves, that none can pass
Into Eternity that way, but all descend to Los
To Bowlahoola & Allamanda & to Entuthon Benython

Kay and Roger Easson's book
Milton: A Poem by William Blake yields further guidance on understanding Blake's terminology and his complex concepts:

"Los is called Time, and we learn in Milton that his hammers are the beating heart, the bellows of his forge are the lungs, and his furnaces are the stomach. For Blake, then, time is a function of pulsation, the rhythmic pounding of the heart, the rhythmic surge of air in the lungs, and the rhythm of digestion in the stomach and intestines. The sensation of the passage of time is inherent in the pulse which pervades the tissues of the body. Los is the poet/ prophet who perceives the rhythms in life, witnesses to the truth that "Time is the mercy of Eternity; without Times swiftness / Which is the swiftest of all things: all were eternal torment." Page 144

Milton, Plate (E 120)
Arise O Sons give all your strength against Eternal Death
Lest we are vegetated, for Cathedrons Looms weave only Death     
A Web of Death: & were it not for Bowlahoola & Allamanda
No Human Form but only a Fibrous Vegetation
A Polypus of soft affections without Thought or Vision
Must tremble in the Heavens & Earths thro all the Ulro space[.]
Throw all the Vegetated Mortals into Bowlahoola                  
But as to this Elected Form who is returnd again
He is the Signal that the Last Vintage now approaches
Nor Vegetation may go on till all the Earth is reapd

So Los spoke. Furious they descended to Bowlahoola & Allamanda
Indignant. unconvincd by Los's arguments & thun[d]ers rolling    
They saw that wrath now swayd and now pity absorbd him
As it was, so it remaind & no hope of an end.

Bowlahoola is namd Law. by mortals, Tharmas founded it:
Because of Satan, before Luban in the City of Golgonooza.
But Golgonooza is namd Art & Manufacture by mortal men.          

In Bowlahoola Los's Anvils stand & his Furnaces rage;
Thundering the Hammers beat & the Bellows blow loud
Living self moving mourning lamenting & howling incessantly
Bowlahoola thro all its porches feels tho' too fast founded
Its pillars & porticoes to tremble at the force                  

Of mortal or immortal arm: and softly lilling flutes
Accordant with the horrid labours make sweet melody-

The Bellows are the Animal Lungs: the hammers the Animal Heart
The Furnaces the Stomach for digestion. terrible their fury
Thousands & thousands labour. thousands play on instruments      
Stringed or fluted to ameliorate the sorrows of slavery
Loud sport the dancers in the dance of death, rejoicing in carnage
The hard dentant Hammers are lulld by the flutes['] lula lula
The bellowing Furnaces['] blare by the long sounding clarion
The double drum drowns howls & groans, the shrill fife. shrieks & cries:     
The crooked horn mellows the hoarse raving serpent, terrible, but harmonious
Bowlahoola is the Stomach in every individual man."

Bowlahoola includes the stomach but also includes the whole digestive and respiratory systems which provide the energy for the operation of the body. The Eassons tell us that 'Allamada involves communication, learning, and the exchange of ideas - the continual ideas of mental harvest.' As a system of the body, 'Allamada is the nervous system.' Damon calls Entuthon Benython 'the physical frame of the generated man' but Frye sees in Entuthon Benython, a pathless forest outside of Golgonooza.

The Body & Soul are a unity, understanding the Body is tatamount to understanding the Soul.

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 4, (E 34)
"But the following Contraries to these are True
  1 Man has no Body distinct from his Soul
for that calld Body is a portion of Soul discernd 
by the five Senses. the chief inlets of Soul in this 
  2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body
and Reason is the bound or outward circumference 
of Energy.
  3 Energy is Eternal Delight"

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Library of Congress
Book of Urizen
Copy G, Plate 4
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The struggle between Los and the Spectre is set forth in the following passage. Blake sees the false reasoning represented by the Spectre as an aspect of his mind and a controlling power in the world. Blake portrays Los engaging the Spectre in direct confrontation. Damon (Page 381) tells us that: 'anything in which reason and heart are separated' has its own Spectre.' The divisions which first took place in Urizen and which we read about in the Book of Urizen, were repeated in Los.

Los proposed to cast the Spectre into the furnace and use the false reasoning to break itself down. Los himself had become 'cruel' and a 'horror' in the struggle to resolve internal conflicts and to make his way in the fallen, unforgiving world.

The Spectre is not inclined to gently cooperate with Los but he makes a pretence at obedience. Los changes the perspective of the Spectre from within to without. He shows the Spectre 'the tortures of the victims' which had spread 'Across all Europe & Asia' as a result of the unfortunate internal reasoning which controlled the psyche. The Spectre sees that it is Los, not himself who is meant to be in charge of the sorting, sifting, melting and hammering that take place in the furnace of the brain, but he will not concede.

But the nature of the Spectre has been revealed: he is Los' 'Pride & Self-righteousness'. Los knows the nature of the enemy; he is no longer fighting the unknown darkness.

In the Book of Urizen it was Los who created Time and Space so that Urizen might have a dwelling place; now Los threatens the false reasoning with being consigned to a different place which he will create for him. Unless the Spectre cooperates in reshaping himself he will lose his place in the outer created world of Time and Space and in the inner furnaces of the brain. In the isolation of Hell he will dwell.

The text has been divided into sections for easier commenting.
Jerusalem, Plate 8, (E 151)
"Be attentive! be obedient! Lo the Furnaces are ready to recieve thee.
I will break thee into shivers! & melt thee in the furnaces of death;       
I will cast thee into forms of abhorrence & torment if thou
Desist not from thine own will, & obey  not my stern command!
I am closd up from my children: my Emanation is dividing
And thou my Spectre art divided against me. But mark

I will compell thee to assist me in my terrible labours. To beat 
These hypocritic Selfhoods on the Anvils of bitter Death
I am inspired: I act not for myself: for Albions sake
I now am what I am: a horror and an astonishment
Shuddring the heavens to look upon me: Behold what cruelties
Are practised in Babel & Shinar, & have approachd to Zions Hill  

While Los spoke, the terrible Spectre fell shuddring before him
Watching his time with glowing eyes to leap upon his prey
Los opend the Furnaces in fear. the Spectre saw to Babel & Shinar
Across all Europe & Asia. he saw the tortures of the Victims.

He saw now from the ou[t]side what he before saw & felt from within
He saw that Los was the sole, uncontrolld Lord of the Furnaces
Groaning he kneeld before Los's iron-shod feet on London Stone,
Hungring & thirsting for Los's life yet pretending obedience.
While Los pursud his speech in threatnings loud & fierce.

Thou art my Pride & Self-righteousness: I have found thee out:   
Thou art reveald before me in all thy magnitude & power
Thy Uncircumcised pretences to Chastity must be cut in sunder!
Thy holy wrath & deep deceit cannot avail against me
Nor shalt thou ever assume the triple-form of Albions Spectre

For I am one of the living: dare not to mock my inspired fury 
If thou wast cast forth from my life! if I was dead upon the mountains
Thou mightest be pitied & lovd: but now I am living; unless
Thou abstain ravening I will create an eternal Hell for thee.
Take thou this Hammer & in patience heave the thundering Bellows
Take thou these Tongs: strike thou alternate with me: labour obedient" 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Pierre Berger wrote William Blake: Poet and Mystic in French. It was translated into English by Daniel Henry Conner. The book is made available by Google. Since it is out of copyright, Google offers a text version from which passages can be copied and pasted. Thus I can provide you with a long passage of Berger's incredibly perceptive insights.

This post follows BEGINNING OF SEPARATION. From William Blake: Poet and Mystic, Page 104-7:
"Thus Urizen passed through changes; and each change was no longer eternal, but fixed a period, and was existent in Time. Now, Urizen himself, like the Eternals, is nothing but an aggregate of myriads of elemental essences, alive only in the general knowledge of his unity. These elements might combine in a different order, might divide and separate themselves from him after the example he has given them. And these are the changes that Time, by his division, would bind or fix—the rivets of brass and iron. In like wise, as we read in Genesis, God divided the light from the darkness, and the evening and the morning were the first day. But the story in Genesis is only a symbol, signifying to Blake that Urizen tore himself apart from Eternity, and that Time began. It is partly on account of this symbol that, later on, he calls Urizen the Prince of Light, and that the name Los is also the name of the sun—an anagram of " Sol."

From this moment in the story follow the seven days of creation, as symbolised in the majestic Bible narrative, and in the even more majestic evolution of the earth and of life which geological knowledge is beginning to reveal to us. What really came to pass in the invisible world was the progressive creation of Urizen. He developed, age by age, like some monstrous animal in the throes of a painful gestation and a delivery wrapped in darkness and confusion. At first, there was nothing but a dark globe of invisible flame, the fire of life, sometimes spherical, because he is wrapped in self-concentration; at other times becoming heart-shaped, because the pulse of life beats in him, and at others again like great loins, ready to bring forth the universe.

[Urizen, Plate 5, (E 73)]
Like a black globe
Viewed by sons of Eternity; standing
On the shore of the infinite ocean,
Like a human heart struggling and beating,
The vast world of Urizen appeared.

Thus, in a dreamless night, this spirit, who is also a world, remained an unshapen mass of flesh or clay, until in time, with the help of Los, definite forms began to appear in him.
Library of Congress
Book of Urizen
Copy G
Plate 10

[Urizen, Plate 10, (E 75)]
Restless turn'd the immortal inchain'd,
Heaving dolorous, anguish'd, unbearable,
Till a roof shaggy wild inclos'd
In an orb his fountain of thought.
In a horrible dreamful slumber,
Like the linked infernal chain,
A vast Spine writh'd in torment
Upon the winds; shooting pain'd
Ribs, like a bending cavern,
And bones of solidness, froze,
Over all his nerves of joy.
And a first Age passed over,
And a state of dismal woe.

And straightway Blake draws, on the opposite page, a globe of light in the midst of darkness, and in this globe a monstrous skeleton, bent and crouching like the embryo in its envelope; its elbows touching its knees, one bony hand clasping its eyeless skull, in an attitude of misery, terror and immense despair. Thus age succeeds age, and in horror and suffering, the flesh and muscles, the eyes, nose and tongue, all take shape. At last, Urizen stands upright, flings his arms out to north and south, and with his feet stamps the nether abyss, trembling, howling, in despair. He feels that he has lost eternity, and consequently is miserable and furious. But all in vain. From henceforth Urizen will live by his own vitality; and the world which he has created, the universe which he constitutes, will continue to develop itself.

But other lives also are created at the same time, and always in consequence of the first creation. The separation of Urizen has divided Eternity. From henceforth, the Eternals are in one place, and Urizen's universe in another. The Infinite has become finite. Space comes into existence at the same moment with Time.

[Urizen, Plate5, (E 73)]
Sund'ring, dark'ning, thund'ring,
Rent away with a terrible crash,
Eternity rolld wide apart,
Mountainous all round,
Departing, departing, departing,
Leaving ruinous fragments of life,
Hanging, frowning cliffs, and all between
An ocean of voidness unfathomable.
And whilst Los, the mighty smith, forged his rivets of iron and brass, creating Time and its divisions, he by that act enclosed Urizen, not in Time only, but also in Space, separating him from the Infinite. Urizen's senses also, his nose, ears, eyes and tongue, as they came into being, felt that they were limited, and could no longer perceive Eternity and the Infinite. With these same senses began the feeling of visible space with its dimensions and its limitations. Thus Los was the personification of both Time and Space, the two new and inevitable consequences of the creation of the new universe.

Now it is the fate of those who separate themselves from others to feel fresh divisions within their own beings. Los, in separating Urizen from Eternity, became himself conscious of an individual existence. He was an "Ego," as Urizen was. He could no longer be one with Eternity, nor return to his former state. He, who was at once Time and Space, was for ever separated from the Eternal-Infinite, confined within the same limits as those in which he had bound Urizen. Further, the two elements of which he was composed must themselves soon divide, Space becoming an entity distinct from Time. As Urizen broke away from Eternity, so would Enitharmon break away from Los."

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Library of Congress
Rosenwald Collection
Hayley's Ballads
Sketch for Eagle
William Blake and William Hayley were both in need of friendship when Blake left the city of London to live in the country near Felpham and work with Hayley. The two discovered that there were multiple disagreements between them. Blake left Felpham three years later no richer in worldly goods than when he had arrived. He had, however, gained experience for which he was grateful. The mental and spiritual work which occupied him at Felpham became known only in Milton and Jerusalem which were products of his struggles.

When he had gained some distance from Hayley, Blake recognised that Hayley too needed support and encouragement; that he was a victim of the same system whose oppression Blake felt. In their close association Blake had not felt that Hayley could be a spiritual friend to him, but on reflection he sought of draw Hayley to him by sharing his spiritual labours.

Letters, Dec 11 1805, (E 766)
"To William Hayley Esqre, Felpham
I speak of Spiritual Things.  Not of
Natural. of Things known only to Myself & to Spirits Good &
Evil. but Not Known to Men on Earth.  It is the passage thro
these Three Years that has brought me into my Present State. & I
know that if I had not been with You I must have
Perish'd--Those Dangers are now Passed & I can see them beneath
my feet It will not be long before I shall be able to present the
full history of my Spiritual Sufferings to the Dwellers upon
Earth. & of the Spiritual Victories obtaind for me by my
Friends--Excuse this Effusion of the Spirit from One who cares
little for this World which passes away. whose Happiness is
Secure in Jesus our Lord. & who looks for Suffering till the time
of complete Deliverance. In the mean While.  I am kept Happy as I
used to be. because I throw Myself & all that I have on our
Saviours Divine Providence. O What Wonders are the Children of
Men! Would to God that they would Consider it That they would
Consider their Spiritual Life Regardless of that faint Shadow
Calld Natural Life. & that they would Promote Each others
Spiritual Labours. Each according to its Rank & that they would
know that. Recieving a Prophet As a Prophet is a Duty which If
omitted is more Severely Avenged than Every Sin & Wickedness
beside It is the Greatest of Crimes to Depress True Art & Science
I know that those who are dead from the Earth & who mockd &
Despised the Meekness of True Art (and such, I find, have been
the situations of our Beautiful Affectionate Ballads).  I know
that such Mockers are Most Severely Punishd in Eternity I know it
for I see it & dare not help.--The Mocker of Art is the Mocker of
Jesus.  Let us go on Dear Sir following his Cross let us take it
up daily Persisting in Spiritual Labours & the Use of that Talent
which it is Death to Bury. & of that Spirit to which we are

Hazard Adams, in William Blake on His Poetry and Painting: A Study of a Descriptive Catalogue Other Prose Writings and Jerusalem, sees that we, like Blake, need to forgive Hayley:
"He complimented Hayley on his ballads, which had little popular success and indeed, had been mocked, but he knew that mockers of art are 'Most Severely punished in Eternity', for the mockers of art are the mockers of Jesus. Hayley has mainly been a figure of fun for scholars and critics, but he may be forgiven his bad poetry for his help and friendship to Blake when Blake badly needed it." Page 89

Friday, June 22, 2012


An image which Blake created for Hayley's Ballads was later reused for a small (4 3/16 x 2 1/2 inches) tempera painting on a copper engraving plate. The picture is now in the Mellon Collection of the Yale Center for British Art. 

The Human Form Divine, Patrick Noon comments:

Center for British Art
Yale University
The Horse
c 1805

"Another tempera that Mr. Mellon acquired at this time [1961], The Horse, is decidedly not an easel painting and probably was not intended for Butts but is indisputably the gem of the painting collection. Identical in size to the small engraved illustration for Hayley's Ballads (1805) that it reproduces, it might be one of the 'little high finished Pictures the size the engravings are to be' mentioned by Blake in a letter to Hayley of March 1805. If so, it is the only surviving example, but the many similarities between The Horse and the intricately rendered and richly textured large color prints of 1805, irrespective of their different media, certainly justify this supposition." Page 9

Letters,  22 March 1805, (E 763)
"The Subjects I cannot do better than those
already chosen, as they are the most eminent among Animals Viz
The Lion. The Eagle.  The Horse.  The Dog.  Of the Dog Species
the Two Ballads are so preeminent & my Designs for them please me
so well that I have chosen that Design in our Last Number of the
Dog & Crocodile. & that of the Dog defending his  Master
from the Vultures of these five I am
making little high finishd Pictures the Size the Engravings are
to be."
Blake incorporates in his design images which make it less an illustration for Hayley's ballad than a group of symbols for us to consider. The horse dominates in its size, its position and its energy. The woman as a static figure counters the intensity of the horse with her own gaze. The female child balances the energy of the horse with her own energy. The setting includes trees, a hillside and water in the foreground. The horse may represent the passion of Blake's own creative or sexual impulse; the woman may represent the control required to fashion his emotion and imagination into his works of poetry and painting; the child may represent his artistic creations still in need of protection as they are released to the outer world. 
Thel, Plate 3, (E 4)
"O virgin know'st thou not. our steeds drink of the golden springs
Where Luvah doth renew his horses"
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 25, (E 45)  
"19. Where the son of fire in his eastern cloud, while the
morning plumes her golden breast,
20. Spurning the clouds written with curses, stamps the stony
law to dust, loosing the eternal horses from the dens of night,

  Empire is no more! and now the lion & wolf shall cease."

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 14,(E 66)
"Sotha & Thiralatha, secret dwellers of dreamful caves,
Arise and please the horrent fiend with your melodious songs.
Still all your thunders golden hoofd, & bind your horses black.
Orc! smile upon my children!
Smile son of my afflictions.                                     
Arise O Orc and give our mountains joy of thy red light."

Milton, Plate 12 [13], (E 105)
"The Horses of Palamabron call'd for rest and pleasant death:
I [Leutha] sprang out of the breast of Satan, over the Harrow beaming     
In all my beauty! that I might unloose the flaming steeds
As Elynittria use'd to do; but too well those living creatures
Knew that I was not Elynittria, and they brake the traces
But me, the servants of the Harrow saw not: but as a bow
Of varying colours on the hills; terribly rag'd the horses." 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


During William Blake's sojourn in Felpham under the patronage of William Hayley he undertook illustrating a series of Hayley's ballads on 'anecdotes relating to animals.' Hayley intended that one ballad be issued each month with three illustrations from Blake, for a total of fifteen ballads. Hayley wished the series to be 'considered as vehicles contrived to exhibit the diversified talents of my Friend for original design, and delicate engraving.' The project was terminated after Blake returned to London. The bookseller involved in the distribution considered it a money losing project and advised it be discontinued. Included among the published Numbers are:  The Elephant, The Eagle, The Lion, and The Dog.

Designs to a Series of Ballads Written by William Hayley
"Adam and the Animals"

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Blake's engraving is mentioned by Hayley in a letter of 16th May 1802: -"He (Blake) is at the moment by my side, representing on copper an Adam of his own, surrounded by animals, - frontispiece to the projected ballads."

Information about this project is from:
The Engravings of William Blake by Archibald G. B. Russell, Published 1912.

Legend on the page:
" Their strength, or speed, or vigilance, were giv'n
In aid of our defects. In some are found
Such teachable and apprehensive parts, 
Match'd with th'expertness of the brutes in theirs
Are oft times vanquished and thrown far behind."

Cowper's "Task," Book VI.

Publish'd June 1 1802, by W. Blake, Felpham

Look for mentions of these and other animals in Blake's poetry.
Songs of Innocence, (E 15)
Little Girl
Sweet and small,
Cock does crow
So do you.
Merry voice
Infant noise
Merrily Merrily to welcome in the Year"

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 9,(E 37)
"When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius. lift up thy head!" 

Jerusalem, Plate 98, (E 258)
"...And I heard Jehovah speak 
Terrific from his Holy Place & saw the Words of the Mutual Covenant Divine
On Chariots of gold & jewels with Living Creatures starry & flaming
With every Colour, Lion, Tyger, Horse, Elephant, Eagle Dove, Fly, Worm,
And the all wondrous Serpent clothed in gems & rich array Humanize
In the Forgiveness of Sins according to the Covenant of Jehovah."

Four Zoas, Page 128, (E 398) 
"So spoke the Sinless Soul & laid her head on the downy fleece 
Of a curld Ram who stretchd himself in sleep beside his mistress
And soft sleep fell upon her eyelids in the silent noon of day"

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 565)
"The Horse never Envies the Peacock nor the Sheep the Goat
but they Envy a Rival in Life & Existence whose ways & means
exceed their own let him be of what Class of Animals he will a
Dog will envy a Cat who is pamperd at the expense of his comfort"

Monday, June 18, 2012


It appears that Los has a gate through which one may pass between the world of Satan 
and the world of Jesus the Imagination. Inside is Golgonooza, outside are Satan's mills.   
Milton, Plate 35 [39], (E 126)
"But the Larks Nest is at the Gate of Los, at the eastern
Gate of wide Golgonooza & the Lark is Los's Messenger"

Jerusalem, Plate 12. (E 155)
"The curtains, woven tears & sighs, wrought into lovely forms
For comfort. there the secret furniture of Jerusalems chamber    
Is wrought: Lambeth! the Bride the Lambs Wife loveth thee:
Thou art one with her & knowest not of self in thy supreme joy.

Go on, builders in hope: tho Jerusalem wanders far away,
Without the gate of Los: among the dark Satanic wheels.

Albion fled through the gate of Los. Efforts to return him to Eden were futile because 
he would not return voluntarily. 

Jerusalem, Plate 35 [39], (E 181)
"By Satans Watch-fiends tho' they search numbering every grain
Of sand on Earth every night, they never find this Gate.
It is the Gate of Los. Withoutside is the Mill, intricate, dreadful
And fill'd with cruel tortures; but no mortal man can find the Mill
Of Satan, in his mortal pilgrimage of seventy years              

For Human beauty knows it not: nor can Mercy find it! But
In the Fourth region of Humanity, Urthona namd[,]
Mortality begins to roll the billows of Eternal Death
Before the Gate of Los. Urthona here is named Los.
And here begins the System of Moral Virtue, named Rahab.  
Albion fled thro' the Gate of Los, and he stood in the Gate.

Los was the friend of Albion who most lov'd him."

Jerusalem, Plate 38 [43],(E 186)
"So Los spoke. Pale they stood around the House of Death:      
In the midst of temptations & despair: among the rooted Oaks:
Among reared Rocks of Albions Sons, at length they rose
Plate 39 [44]
With one accord in love sublime, & as on Cherubs wings
They Albion surround with kindest violence to bear him back
Against his will thro Los's Gate to Eden: Four-fold; loud!
Their Wings waving over the bottomless Immense: to bear
Their awful charge back to his native home: but Albion dark,
Repugnant; rolld his Wheels backward into Non-Entity
Loud roll the Starry Wheels of Albion into the World of Death
And all the Gate of Los, clouded with clouds redounding from
Albions dread Wheels, stretching out spaces immense between
That every little particle of light & air, became Opake       
Black & immense, a Rock of difficulty & a Cliff
Of black despair; that the immortal Wings labourd against
Cliff after cliff, & over Valleys of despair & death:
The narrow Sea between Albion & the Atlantic Continent:
Its waves of pearl became a boundless Ocean bottomless,       
Of grey obscurity, filld with clouds & rocks & whirling waters
And Albions Sons ascending & descending in the horrid Void.

But as the Will must not be bended but in the day of Divine
Power: silent calm & motionless, in the mid-air sublime,o
The Family Divine hover around the darkend Albion.          

Such is the nature of the Ulro: that whatever enters:
Becomes Sexual, & is Created, and Vegetated, and Born."
British Museum 
Night Thoughts 
Leaving Eden or Beulah or Golgonooza through Los' gate changes one's perspective. Fourfold Eternal vision becomes threefold Sexual vision; the unifying integrating force which Blake sometimes referred to as the lineaments is lost leaving the head, heart and loins. 

To be created means to be divided from the Eternal: to lose the ability to return to the integration of Eden. 

To be Vegetated means to acquire the characteristics of a being which is capable of reproducing itself in the material world, with the implication of self-absorption and self-perpetuation. 

To be Born means to enter the world of generation and come under the pedagogue of experience as an alienated, autonomous individual whose ability to perceive reality is attenuated and distorted.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Because man is created in the Image of God, his role is central.  Blake sees God as the 'intellectual fountain of Humanity.' The individual human lives within his own mind in spite of appearances to the contrary.  Around this Image of God in each individual, man creates his own reality.

In Milton: A Poem by William Blake by Kay Parkhurst Easson and Roger R. Easson we receive an explanation of the concave earth which results from the centrality of man.

Page 141
"Blake describes the earth as concave, as cavern of 'labyrinthine intricacy'; this earth is the human skull or body which, if observed from without, is convex but, if observed from within, is concave. Similarly Blake describes the sky as an 'immortal Tent' ; man 'standing on his own roof, or in his garden' 

Page 141
"Blake describes the earth as concave, as cavern of 'labyrinthine intricacy'; this earth is the human skull or body which, if observed from without, is convex but, if observed from within, is concave. Similarly Blake describes the sky as an 'immortal Tent' ; man 'standing on his own roof, or in his garden' 
sees such concave space as his universe; he sees it from within to without. Because this is true, Blake insists that the astronomer's model of  the earth as 'a Globe rolling through Voidness' is a delusion, for such would be the model of an earth separated from its perceiver. In a concave model, however, all the earth, the sky, the universe are within man's immediate perception.

This view of the physical world attests that Blake has returned the physical body of the individual, and the soul within it, to the center of his cosmos as the medieval world view had done before him.  This is the Vitruvian man, the man in the center of a circle proscribed by the extentions of his limbs. Here, however, Blake's universe is proscribed not by a concepual framework of geography and terrain, but only by the limits of and individual's perception... What Blake asserts, then, is that it is our interaction with perceived objects which is the essential element of reality. 

Just as the Vitruvian man stands in the center of his circle, we stand in a perceptual concavity which is much like a great sensory balloon. Blake calls this concavity the Mundane Egg."

Jerusalem, Plate 71, (E 225)
"What is Above is Within, for every-thing in Eternity is translucent:
The Circumference is Within: Without, is formed the Selfish Center
And the Circumference still expands going forward to Eternity.
And the Center has Eternal States! these States we now explore."

Jerusalem, Plate 71, (E 225)
"All were his Friends & their Sons & Daughters intermarry in Beulah
For all are Men in Eternity. Rivers Mountains Cities Villages,
All are Human & when you enter into their Bosoms you walk
In Heavens & Earths; as in your own Bosom you bear your Heaven
And Earth, & all you behold, tho it appears Without it is Within
In your Imagination of which this World of Mortality is but a Shadow."    
Jerusalem, Plate 72, (E 227)
"All the Nations Peoples & Tongues throughout all the Earth

And the Four Gates of Los surround the Universe Within and       
Without; & whatever is visible in the Vegetable Earth, the same
Is visible in the Mundane Shell; reversd in mountain & vale
And a Son of Eden was set over each Daughter of Beulah to guard
In Albions Tomb the wondrous Creation: & the Four-fold Gate
Towards Beulah is to the South[.] Fenelon, Guion, Teresa,    
Whitefield & Hervey, guard that Gate; with all the gentle Souls
Who guide the great Wine-press of Love; Four precious stones that Gate:"

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Yale Center for British Art
Plate 54
Blake speaks in many voices in his poetry but he reserves speaking his own voice to messages to which he wants to give special emphasis. On Plate 15 of Jerusalem he speaks in the first person as he conveys his 'awful vision'. The whole panoply of the grand myth is presented as it was outlined in Blake's mind. It is all completely personal to him: he sees the brokenness and loss, he fears the consequences, he tries to give warnings. He is making a plea that the groans of the created world may be heard and the glory which will follow will come quickly. 

Paul said it before in the eighth chapter of Romans: 

[18] For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
[19] For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth
for the manifestation of the sons of God.
[20] For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly,
but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
[21] Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from
the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the
children of God.
[22] For we know that the whole creation groaneth and
travaileth in pain together until now.
[23] And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the
firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within
ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption
of our body.

 Jerusalem, Plate 15, (E 158) 
"In every Nation of the Earth till the Twelve Sons of Albion
Enrooted into every Nation: a mighty Polypus growing
From Albion over the whole Earth: such is my awful Vision.   

I see the Four-fold Man. The Humanity in deadly sleep
And its fallen Emanation. The Spectre & its cruel Shadow.
I see the Past, Present & Future, existing all at once
Before me; O Divine Spirit sustain me on thy wings!
That I may awake Albion from His long & cold repose.             
For Bacon & Newton sheathd in dismal steel, their terrors hang
Like iron scourges over Albion, Reasonings like vast Serpents
Infold around my limbs, bruising my minute articulations

I turn my eyes to the Schools & Universities of Europe
And there behold the Loom of Locke whose Woof rages dire  
Washd by the Water-wheels of Newton. black the cloth
In heavy wreathes folds over every Nation; cruel Works
Of many Wheels I View, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic
Moving by compulsion each other: not as those in Eden: which
Wheel within Wheel in freedom revolve in harmony & peace. 

I see in deadly fear in London Los raging round his Anvil
Of death: forming an Ax of gold: the Four Sons of Los
Stand round him cutting the Fibres from Albions hills
That Albions Sons may roll apart over the Nations
While Reuben enroots his brethren in the narrow Canaanite    
From the Limit Noah to the Limit Abram in whose Loins
Reuben in his Twelve-fold majesty & beauty shall take refuge
As Abraham flees from Chaldea shaking his goary locks
But first Albion must sleep, divided from the Nations

I see Albion sitting upon his Rock in the first Winter           
And thence I see the Chaos of Satan & the World of Adam
When the Divine Hand went forth on Albion in the mid Winter
And at the place of Death when Albion sat in Eternal Death
Among the Furnaces of Los in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom
Plate 16
Hampstead Highgate Finchley Hendon Muswell hill: rage loud
Before Bromions iron Tongs & glowing Poker reddening fierce
Hertfordshire glows with fierce Vegetation! in the Forests
The Oak frowns terrible, the Beech & Ash & Elm enroot
Among the Spiritual fires; loud the Corn fields thunder along  
The Soldiers fife; the Harlots shriek; the Virgins dismal groan
The Parents fear: the Brothers jealousy: the Sisters curse
Beneath the Storms of Theotormon & the thundring Bellows
Heaves in the hand of Palamabron who in Londons darkness
Before the Anvil, watches the bellowing flames: thundering       
The Hammer loud rages in Rintrahs strong grasp swinging loud
Round from heaven to earth down falling with heavy blow
Dead on the Anvil, where the red hot wedge groans in pain
He quenches it in the black trough of his Forge; Londons River
Feeds the dread Forge, trembling & shuddering along the Valleys 

Humber & Trent roll dreadful before the Seventh Furnace
And Tweed & Tyne anxious give up their Souls for Albions sake
Lincolnshire Derbyshire Nottinghamshire Leicestershire
From Oxfordshire to Norfolk on the Lake of Udan Adan
Labour within the Furnaces, walking among the Fires              
With Ladles huge & iron Pokers over the Island white.

Scotland pours out his Sons to labour at the Furnaces
Wales gives his Daughters to the Looms; England: nursing Mothers
Gives to the Children of Albion & to the Children of Jerusalem
From the blue Mundane Shell even to the Earth of Vegetation      
Throughout the whole Creation which groans to be deliverd.
Albion groans in the deep slumbers of Death upon his Rock."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Near the beginning of Milton, Blake presents another perspective on the origins. This account begins with Urizen, Los, Enitharmon and Albion already in existence. First we learn that the initial splitting of the unity occurred when the unity which was Albion was slain in two aspects. His mountains (his mind or reasoning powers) were affected as well as his tent (his body or central integrity). Here we pick up on an idea from Paradise Lost which appears elsewhere in Blake; that the fall is initiated by the envy of an angelic being for the expression of divinity incorporated in the human. Blake equates the 'Human Imagination' and the 'Divine Body of the Lord Jesus'.
Milton, Plate 2, (E 96)
"Three Classes are Created by the Hammer of Los, & Woven  

Plate 3                                                  
By Enitharmons Looms when Albion was slain upon his Mountains
And in his Tent, thro envy of Living Form, even of the Divine
And of the sports of Wisdom in the Human Imagination
Which is the Divine Body of the Lord Jesus, blessed for ever.
Mark well my words. they are of your eternal salvation:      

The colloquy begins (or continues) between Urizen and Los. Urizen separate from the unity of Albion has no individual existence. The work of Los is to create conditions through which Urizen can take form and acquire vision.
Urizen lay in darkness & solitude, in chains of the mind lock'd up
Los siezd his Hammer & Tongs; he labourd at his resolute Anvil
Among indefinite Druid rocks & snows of doubt & reasoning.

Seven Ages are required for Urizen to acquire a skeleton, a circulatory system, five senses and his limbs.

Refusing all Definite Form, the Abstract Horror roofd. stony hard.
And a first Age passed over & a State of dismal woe:      

Down sunk with fright a red round Globe hot burning. deep
Deep down into the Abyss. panting: conglobing: trembling
And a second Age passed over & a State of dismal woe.

Rolling round into two little Orbs & closed in two little Caves
The Eyes beheld the Abyss: lest bones of solidness freeze over all      
And a third Age passed over & a State of dismal woe.

From beneath his Orbs of Vision, Two Ears in close volutions
Shot spiring out in the deep darkness & petrified as they grew
And a fourth Age passed over & a State of dismal woe.

Hanging upon the wind, Two Nostrils bent down into the Deep   
And a fifth Age passed over & a State of dismal woe.

In ghastly torment sick, a Tongue of hunger & thirst flamed out
And a sixth Age passed over & a State of dismal woe.

Enraged & stifled without & within: in terror & woe, he threw his
Right Arm to the north, his left Arm to the south, & his Feet  
Stampd the nether Abyss in trembling & howling & dismay
And a seventh Age passed over & a State of dismal woe

In response to the formation of Urizen, Los emanates separate female and male forms from his original unified form.

Terrified Los stood in the Abyss & his immortal limbs
Grew deadly pale; he became what he beheld: for a red
Round Globe sunk down from his Bosom into the Deep in pangs  
He hoverd over it trembling & weeping. suspended it shook
The nether Abyss in temblings. he wept over it, he cherish'd it
In deadly sickening pain: till separated into a Female pale
As the cloud that brings the snow: all the while from his Back
A blue fluid exuded in Sinews hardening in the Abyss       
Till it separated into a Male Form howling in Jealousy

The labors continue within, while the consequences are perceived as in an exterior world. Time and space have become the canvas on which are written activities and characterisations of mental  processes.

 Within labouring. beholding Without: from Particulars to Generals
Subduing his Spectre, they Builded the Looms of Generation
They Builded Great Golgonooza Times on Times Ages on Ages
First Orc was Born then the Shadowy Female: then All Los's Family
At last Enitharmon brought forth Satan Refusing Form, in vain
The Miller of Eternity made subservient to the Great Harvest
That he may go to his own Place Prince of the Starry Wheels

New York Public Library
Plate 10
Blake has set the stage for the threefold existence of the world of Los to be played out in the three sons of Los: Rintrah, Palamabron, and Satan - wrath, pity and the reasoning abstract.

Plate 4                    
Beneath the Plow of Rintrah & the harrow of the Almighty
In the hands of Palamabron. Where the Starry Mills of Satan
Are built beneath the Earth & Waters of the Mundane Shell
Here the Three Classes of Men take their Sexual texture Woven
The Sexual is Threefold: the Human is Fourfold"            

And here the fallen Urizen has been identified with Satan, the adversary of God. 

Milton, Plate 10 [11], (E 104)
"Then Los & Enitharmon knew that Satan is Urizen       
Drawn down by Orc & the Shadowy Female into Generation"

Monday, June 11, 2012


Yale Center for British Art

Book of Urizen
Plate 10
Copy A, 1794

Blake's Book of Urizen recounts events related to the book of Genesis as a traumatic splitting of the original unity to form self-conscious entities who make a world of alienation, oppression, uncertainty. Pierre Berger in William Blake: Poet and Mystic describes in his own terms a scenario for the first division which leads automatically to a second division. The roles of Urizen and Los have been defined; the mental wars will ensue.
"It would be of little use were we to count the individual cells that make up the human body. Not one of them is conscious of its individuality; but all share equally in the complete knowledge of our existence, and all combine in us to make one. But suppose one of these cells to become conscious of its own existence, and to say, 'I exist, independently of the body as a whole.' This thought would be the beginning of a separate creation, the formation of a personality, the first fall of man from unity. Must not something analogous occur when the newly conceived being begins to live a conscious life even in its mother's womb? In such wise came the first fall from Eternity, the first separation of something from the Divine whole, the phenomenon of creation, which, at bottom, is only a division. One of the thoughts of God separated itself from Him, as it is written in the Gospel of St. John: this Thought became the Word, which has been with Him from the beginning, and before the beginning, the word which was God. "Et verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat verbum" And the word became the Fiat, and had its echo in Eternity: the created universe was its emanation.
Blake says no more than this, though he may say it differently. According to him, there was a spirit who separated himself from Eternity, from that infinite Unity constituted by the Spirit of Universal Man, both All and One, and who thus became a personality different from the Eternals, who are one though many. In separating from them, he created a kind of abstract void between them and himself: he wrenched himself away from them, diminishing both himself and the Eternal Infinite at the same instant.
Thus began the existence of Urizen, the firstborn of Eternity, who plays so great a part in the works of Blake. We shall have to study him in many shapes; but for us now he is only the first conscious being, disembodied still, but nevertheless the first creation, the first " I " as distinguished from the All, the Ancient of Days.
The first existence of a separate personality is pregnant with consequences. We have now two distinct beings : Eternity and Urizen. But the birth of Urizen marks a definite moment in Eternity. There is therefore a date, the beginning of something. And as, in the Bible, the first great act of creation marks the first day, so the breaking away of the first personality from the great " All " marks the beginning of time. Time is created simply by the birth of a separate Will. His name, in Blake's great mythical system, is Los. From henceforward the history of Urizen will belong no more to Eternity, but to Time. It will be Los's task, therefore, to separate this new-born personality from the Eternals. He is the smith who will bind Urizen in the chain of Days and Years."

Book of Urizen, Plate 5, (E 73)
" 8. And Los round the dark globe of Urizen,
Kept watch for Eternals to confine,
The obscure separation alone;                                 
For Eternity stood wide apart,
Plate 6
As the stars are apart from the earth

9. Los wept howling around the dark Demon:
And cursing his lot; for in anguish,
Urizen was rent from his side;
And a fathomless void for his feet;
And intense fires for his dwelling.

10. But Urizen laid in a stony sleep
Unorganiz'd, rent from Eternity 

11. The Eternals said: What is this? Death
Urizen is a clod of clay." 

Friday, June 8, 2012


Yale Center for British Art
Paul Mellon Collection
Jerusalem, Plate 96

In six days God created all we know as the world; these six days are the six thousand years so often mentioned by Blake. They will come to an end when man will return to Eden and partake of the tree of life. When error is consumed by truth the Outward Creation will cease to exist.  Blake speaks of this early in his career when he says that the whole creation which appears 'finite and corrupt' will appear 'infinite and holy' when it is consumed.   

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 14, (E 39) 
"The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true. as I have heard from Hell. For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite. and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt.
   This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.
   But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his
soul, is to  be expunged; this I shall do, by printing in the
infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and
medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the
infinite which was hid.
   If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would
appear  to man as it is: infinite.
   For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro'
narrow chinks of his cavern."

 In Blake's system there is a transformation which takes place when perception is altered. When man is able to see not 'through a narrow chink in his cavern' but as from a mountaintop, he will be able to distinguish truth from error, good from evil, what is permanent from what is transitory. The distortions which resulted from being unable to recognise the good, the true and the permanent will be clarified. That which belongs to the Eternal realm will be uncovered and clearly revealed. The illusions of materiality will go up in smoke.   
Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 565)
" Some People flatter themselves
that there will be No Last Judgment & that Bad Art will be
adopted & mixed with Good Art That Error or Experiment will make
a Part of Truth & they Boast that it is its Foundation these
People flatter themselves   I will not Flatter them Error is
Created Truth is Eternal Error or Creation will be Burned Up &
then & not till then Truth or Eternity will appear It is Burnt up
the Moment Men cease to behold it I assert for My self that I do
not behold the Outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance &
not Action it is as the Dirt upon my feet No part of Me."

Gates of Paradise, The Keys, (E 267)
"5    Blind in Fire with shield & spear 
     Two Horn'd Reasoning Cloven Fiction 
     In Doubt which is Self contradiction
     A dark Hermaphrodite We stood             
     Rational Truth Root of Evil & Good
     Round me flew the Flaming Sword
     Round her snowy Whirlwinds roard
     Freezing her Veil the Mundane Shell"

Annotations to Lavater, (E 594)
"now both evil & good cannot exist in a 
simple being. for thus 2 contraries would. spring from one
essence which is impossible. but if man is considerd as only
evil. & god only good. how then is regeneration effected which
turns the evil to good. by casting out the evil. by the good. 
See Matthew XII. Ch. 26. 27. 28. 29 vs"
Matthew 12 
[26] And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 
[27] And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. 
[28] But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. 
[29] Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man?
and then he will spoil his house. 

Mark 3 
[24] And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 
[25] And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 
[26] And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. 

Romans 12 
[21] Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Illustration 4 for Paradise Lost
Thomas Set, 1807

Blake painted two sets of twelve illustrations to Milton's Paradise Lost. The second set duplicates the first except for one image. This is the image which appears only in  the Thomas Set from 1807.

This illustration include God the creator in the upper part of the picture with the unusual feature of wings. The central figure is an androgynous angel who separates the tempter from the tempted and the upper  level from the lower.

As pointed out by Robert N Essick in William Blake at the Huntington:

"The fallen angel [left figure] gestures in consternation, his face 'dim'd' ([PL] 4:114) and brow knitted as he 'falls into many doubts with himself, and many passions, fear, envy and despair' ([PL] Argument to Book 4). Blake captures this sense of self-division (an important theme in his own poetry of this period) and degeneration into a lesser form of being by entwining Satan's winged body with the serpent he will become and by placing the serpent's head in ascendancy over Satan's residual angelic countenance.
The mutual self-involvement of Adam and Eve, staring into each other's eyes adds another warning note. Limited vision, even if an  aspect of innocence, is one of the fundamental errors Blake exposes in his writings." (Page 112)

The most fascinating thing about this picture is that it captures a moment of potential resolution. A decision is hanging in the balance. A moment such as this is not in time but in eternity. This moment is 'less than the pulsation of the artery', the moment when the 'poet's work is done'. Our poet has shown us the choice being made between remaining in Eden and requiring 'six thousand years' of experience to return to Eden. The fall of Eve and Adam can still be avoided.

Milton, Plate 28 [30], (E 127)
"Each has its Guard. each Moment Minute Hour Day Month & Year.
All are the work of Fairy hands of the Four Elements             
The Guard are Angels of Providence on duty evermore
Every Time less than a pulsation of the artery
Is equal in its period & value to Six Thousand Years.
Plate 29 [31]
For in this Period the Poets Work is Done: and all the Great
Events of Time start forth & are concievd in such a Period
Within a Moment: a Pulsation of the Artery." 
Milton, Plate 22 [24], (E 117)
"I am that Shadowy Prophet who Six Thousand Years ago    
Fell from my station in the Eternal bosom. Six Thousand Years
Are finishd. I return! both Time & Space obey my will.
I in Six Thousand Years walk up and down: for not one Moment
Of Time is lost, nor one Event of Space unpermanent
But all remain: every fabric of Six Thousand Years               
Remains permanent: tho' on the Earth where Satan
Fell, and was cut off all things vanish & are seen no more
They vanish not from me & mine, we guard them first & last
The generations of men run on in the tide of Time
But leave their destind lineaments permanent for ever & ever." 
Milton, Plate 35 [39], (E 136)
"Just in this Moment when the morning odours rise abroad
And first from the Wild Thyme, stands a Fountain in a rock
Of crystal flowing into two Streams, one flows thro Golgonooza   

And thro Beulah to Eden beneath Los's western Wall
The other flows thro the Aerial Void & all the Churches
Meeting again in Golgonooza beyond Satans Seat
So spoke Los as we went along to his supreme abode."